FP: You were an All-State soccer player at Albemarle High School in Charlottesville, VA. What made you want to try out for the football team as a kicker?
NN: My earth science teacher Rick Vrhovac, he must of spent a semester convincing me that I could kick for the team. Coach V is now the assistant principle at Albemarle High School. Their starting kicker I believe was moving somewhere, so they needed a replacement for the next season. I promised Coach V that I would come out my sophomore year and give it a try. The rest is history. The summer before my first season, my family took a three week vacation to San Diego. During that time I spent the entire time learning my first kicking technique, which has since evolved into a much more efficient swing. Coach V and I have stayed in touch and I have always reminded him of how thankful I am for having his influence in my life. He is a great teacher and leader for young men.
FP: You graduated from Maryland as the all time leading scorer in ACC history, quite an accomplishment. What are your fondest memories of your time at College Park?
NN: Besides all the great riots we had after beating and sometimes losing to Duke...Thursday night on prime time, down in Georgia, I was faced with my first game tying and game winning field goal opportunity and was successful on both. That entire season was a great memory and having the chance to play in the orange bowl my first year playing college football was the ultimate reward for an almost perfect season. Ill never forget the fans after that 2001 season. Before we headed down to Florida for the bowl game the University held a pep-rally to send us off. Cole Field house was packed and the team was gathered on the basketball court getting acknowledged for our bowl bid. As they were chanting and screaming they started saying "We Want Novak." I was pretty shy back then so I was trying to hide in the middle of the pack, that didn't work for long...before I knew it my teammates pushed me out on center court. I was out there listening to this chant and taking it all in, I was overwhelmed the fans were amazing. I'll never forget that moment and all the support they gave me during my time at Maryland. Other memories the NC State kick down at their place and the NC State kick at our place...preventing Phillip Rivers from ever winning a game against Maryland during his 4 years! I was blessed to have a great snapper John Condo and holders Brooks Branard and Adam Podlesh . The teams we had were tough blue collar guys, many of which are still playing in the league.
FP: You had 2 memorable game winning kicks during your tenure with the Skins. The first came against the Seahawks and was dedicated to your friend Annie. Tell us about the kick and your friend.
NN: My first NFL game and I get to kick a game winner in overtime and at the same time my neighbor Annie was fighting to defeat an entirely different opponent...breast and ovarian cancer. She was fighting for her life and I knew she was listening to the game at the hospital. I felt her all around me and wanted to make that kick for her and my teammates at the time. I was very emotional when I spoke of her after the game cause I wanted to tell the world what a strong, courageous woman she was and what she was forced to fight her entire adult life. It was very important for me to use the platform that was given to me that day. To bring more attention to a terrible disease and to dedicate the kick to Annie after the game on the middle of the field and in the press conference in the locker room. I was thinking about all this before the kick. I knew I was going to make it...I didn't have a doubt in my mind. However I didn't think I was going to have to make it twice!
FP: Your 2nd game winner came against the rival Cowboys in one of the craziest finishes in the history of football. In the span of 35 seconds you missed a 49 yarder that would have won it, and then hit the game winner from 47 yards away with no time left on the clock. Sandwiched in between was a blocked Cowboy field goal and an amazing return by the late Sean Taylor. Tell us about those last 35 seconds from your perspective.
NN: That was a crazy game! Cooley’s great catch in the endzone to tie the game and Troy Vincent blocking Mike’s kick. Sean was amazing, he picked that ball up ran it back and thank the Lord for that guy who committed the face mask penalty on Sean preventing the game from ending at regulation and getting us into field goal range as a result. There wasn't anyone in the world that day that wanted to make that kick more then me...I remember praying for a second chance. I was praying while Mike was getting ready to line up for his kick. I couldn't watch, I heard the second thump and and the fans going crazy, I looked up and ran to the kicking net. I remember the fans near my net, talking to me giving their support. I didn’t have time to think just react, so I ran out there and kicked it. One of the greatest wins I have ever been apart of especially doing it against the cowboys as a Redskin.
FP: A kickers next gig is always a phone call away, are you prepared to return to the NFL if that call comes?
NN: I had a workout in Cincy last Thursday and one today in Detroit. I went 22 for 22in Field Goals. I'm ready to play. I've made many changes to my swing and feel like an entirely new kicker. This entire offseason I dedicated to kicking like a pro, which means having a smooth consistent technique, it has to look effortless. I have always been optimistic no matter what happens, attitude is everything in the game of football and in the game of life. I stick to a schedule even when I'm not on a team. Usually what happens during the season is teams will call on Monday and fly you in for a Tuesday workout. I have to make sure I'm ready to compete every Tuesday. I workout, kick and do all the physical prep from Wednesday to Saturday. I have always been intrinsically motivated, I love the grind of it all. In my spare time I work part time at Athletic Republic in Annapolis as an athletic performance and kicking coach. I believe God has a plan for me, as long as I keep fulfilling my end of the deal, I think great things are yet to come. I have been tremendously blessed thus far on and off the field.
Cheers and Hail